Saints open season on winning note
Champs slip past Minnesota in NFC championship rematch
NEW ORLEANS – Drew Brees and the Saints extended New Orleans’ post-Super Bowl euphoria for at least another week and handed Brett Favre a second straight loss in the Louisiana Superdome.
Brees completed 27 of 36 passes for 237 yards and one touchdown, and the Saints survived a hard-fought season opener for a 14-9 victory Thursday night.
It wasn’t the most spectacular way to open a title defense, considering it was a rematch of the riveting 2009 NFC title game last January, which the Saints won in overtime to advance to their first Super Bowl.
“We’re not used to 14-9 victories, but we’re used to winning,” said Brees, the reigning Super Bowl MVP. “So we like the W.”
But it was the lowest-scoring victory of the Sean Payton era, which began in 2006. Still, the Saints will take it, especially since their defense limited Favre to 171 yards passing and one score.
“I know people are going to say it wasn’t the fireworks they expected it to be,” Favre said.
Although his offense was far less potent than usual, Payton said he “was proud of the way we came through and made enough plays to start the season 1-0.”
Unlike the NFC championship game, the Vikings didn’t fumble and turned the ball over only once on Jonathan Vilma’s interception of Favre, who made an ill-advised throw as Roman Harper hit him on a safety blitz.
Also unlike their previous meeting, the Saints had most of the statistical advantages, outgaining Minnesota 308 yards to 253 and controlling the ball for 33:43, compared to 26:17 for Minnesota.
“We knew we would have to play better in a lot of areas than we did last year (against the Vikings) and I felt like we did,” Brees said. “We just showed that we can win in a lot of different ways.”
New Orleans might have won the game more easily if not for two missed field goals by Garrett Hartley, who kicked the dramatic winning field goal last year.
Still, New Orleans was able to kneel on the ball to run out most of the last two minutes after Pierre Thomas capped a 71-yard, one-touchdown performance with 10-yard, first-down run right after the 2-minute warning.
Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 122 yards and three TDs in the last meeting, rushed for 87 yards on 19 carries against New Orleans’ stingy defense.
“We did a very good job of holding against the run and still taking some of the downfield throws away,” Payton said.
Although the game was competitive until the final minutes, it hardly lived up to its hype.
Favre’s comeback from ankle surgery, marking the start of his 20th season, was largely unspectacular. Despite being sacked only once and hit not nearly as often, or as hard, as in the NFC title game, he looked out of synch or inaccurate at times.